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Going Container Naked: Four key value props

By Larry Gordon

Oct. 6, 2015

For the 2015 Container Summit last month, keynoter Bryan Cantrill, Joyent’s CTO, began with an interesting title “Going Container Naked” and the summit stayed informative to the end.  Meetings like the Container Summit are important for early adopters to understand the potential use cases for a new technology, if any.  

Once the value propositions are identified, then they can be measured and estimated.  Toward that end, Joyent, the principal sponsor of the event, focuses on "Operational Efficiency" as the likely driver.  From Joyent’s position, operational efficiency covers a lot of ground from development through production. Areas included:

Developer Efficiency – Developer efficiency is the first and foremost value proposition because it improves the productivity of the most expensive data center resource — application developers.  Developers love containers for speedier testing and deployment across multiple Linux distros.  Write once, deploy across many distributions.  Developers hate testing different devices- it takes a long time and is not very satisfying.

DevOps Efficiency – DevOps has always been a difficult problem to deal with.  Getting the right systems running at the right time is a thankless job. Containers turn out to be the killer app for DevOps, enabling the realization of the DevOps vision and speeding up deployment cycle times.

Business Agility– Even though developers were the first to get excited about containers, some business management  teams have quickly come to realize that by enabling DevOps – e.g., continuous deployment, continuous integration – containers can help IT shed the cement boots that make it slow to respond to changes in the business.  IT can begin to adapt at the speed of business.  This is actually huge.

Bare Metal: The fourth value proposition: The three value propositions above are strong reasons that developers of high-capacity, hyperscale systems care most about.  But the fourth value proposition mostly benefits enterprise class systems — the significant reduction in hardware and software costs that IT organizations are trying to understand.  Running on bare metal suggests that both hardware costs and software license fees will be driven down as the enterprises move away from their Microsoft Windows Server platforms and adopt container-based systems.

When containers run on bare metal, data centers use fewer kilowatts so less processing is required for the same workload.  That produces big savings in the long run, but bare metal is often the last in the chain of value propositions.  Also, big savings can accrue as organizations see software license fees drop as systems can be rightsized for more efficient hardware.

These four value propositions together are significant although early on the savings are hard to describe.  Fortunately the Summit had a few enterprise-focused speakers familiar with these early drivers.